By Josh Muchly

I saw what I needed to see in the first half hour

Upshot: “In Depression-era London, a now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, along with Michael’s three children, are visited by the enigmatic Mary Poppins following a personal loss. Through her unique magical skills, and with the aid of her friend Jack, she helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.”

I felt neither joy nor wonder in MARY POPPINS RETURNS. I saw what I needed to see in the first half hour then turned it off afterwards.

I’m told the highlight of the film is when Dick Van Dyke shows up to dance for a minute or two towards the end. Perhaps that’s the most poignant criticism of the film and nothing else need to be explained….

High-point: To attempt some amount of fairness I will say that, for me, Ben Whishaw (who plays Michael Banks) is the highlight. It was clear that he wasn’t simply cashing in, and he would bring as much life to his character as possible.

Low-point: the opening. The filmmakers knew that their film would probably not reach the allure of the original. They should’ve opened the film with a bang, a roar, a wow! They should have put some of their best material upfront to keep the audience engaged. They didn’t. It was a bold choice — like saving all the hit singles on an album for the B-side; a strategy that didn’t pay off.

Rundown: Having sat through Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017), I realize there’s no reason to stick around when a movie isn’t capturing you. There’s too much else out here to watch!

Firstly, the Sherman Brothers are missed right away; the songs themselves feel less inspired. Further, while Lin-Manuel Miranda is talented indeed — I hope his stardom remains bright — opening the film by concentrating on his new character, Jack, singing to us about London was a mistake. The filmmakers should have had Jack break the Fourth Wall to introduce himself; it would have him more accessible and serve as a better callback to Bert.

Moreover, there’s too many characters introduced upfront. There is Jack, plus the three Banks Family children (Annabelle, John and George), plus the grown-up Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Micheal; it’s overkill and feels like too much to sort through while we’re eagerly awaiting for Emily Blunt’s version of Mary Poppins to arrive.

From what I saw, Ms. Blunt seemed to be portraying a more extreme Mary Poppins — both more stern and also more eager to go on magical adventures. Still, I respect Ms. Blunt for taking this role even though it was  her performance would always be compared to Julie Andrews.

Moreover, director Ron Marshall knows his way around a musical — he directed CHICAGO (2002) and INTO THE WOODS (2014). He’s also no stranger to Disney sequels — ON STRANGER TIDES (2011). I’m not sure what went wrong here; perhaps this film was ultimately too comfortable an endeavor for someone so talented?

One can make a film as glossy to the max, but without the magic it won’t be enough to compensate. That said, if you are invested in enjoying this film, you probably will. The movie looks like it would be quite the visual buffet on the big screen. If I had made the effort to see this in the theater, I may not have walked out.

Rating: 3/7

MARY POPPINS RETURNS is available to rent at Redbox and on Amazon Video.

Follow Josh Muchly @muchlymedia on Twitter

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5.00 avg. rating (94% score) - 1 vote

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